Hypostasis (from ὐπό, under, and ἵστημι, to stand; hence subsistence), a term used in theology to signify person. Thus the orthodox hold that there is but one nature or essence in God, but three hypostases or persons. This term is of very ancient use in the Church. Cyril, in a letter to Nestormus, employs it instead of πρόσωπον, person, which did not appear to him sufficiently expressive. The term occasioned great dissensions, both among the Greeks and Latins. In the Council of Nicaea, hypostasis was defined to mean essence or substance, so that it was heresy to say that Christ n-as of a different hypostasis from his Father. Custom, however, altered its meaning. In the necessity they were under of expressing themselves strongly against the Sabellians, the Greeks used the word hypostasis, the Latins personia, which proved a source of great disagreement. The barrenness of the Latin language allowed them only one word by which to translate the two Greek ones οὐσία and ὑπόστασις, and thus prevented them' from distinguishing essence from hypostasis. An end was put to these disputes by a synod held in Alexandria about A.D. 362, at which Athanasius assisted, when it was determined to be synonymous with πρόσωπον. After this time the Latins made no great scruple in saying tres hypostases, or the Greeks three persons. — Farrar. SEE TRINITY; SEE HOMOUSIAN.

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